Then Peter said, “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?”
When Jesus urges his disciples to be prepared for "the master's return" Saint Peter asks, "Is this parable meant for us?"
His question sounds vaguely like the student's perennial, "Is this going to be on the exam?"
During this troubled summer of 2016, as we suffer one shocking story after another from the United States and from around the world, everyone wonders, "How should I respond to all this?"
Newspaper editorials insist we should not grow complaisant or jaded. "Let's continue to be horrified!" or shocked, or grief-stricken, or whatever. But neither should we be terrorized or traumatized.
Many years ago, reading yet another story of a bystander killed by handgun, I realized it could happen to me. It might happen anytime or anywhere, and inevitably without warning. Since then, way back in 1990, one of our friar-priests was murdered in just that way. He made a wrong turn in an unfamiliar town and died. It could have been me; I get lost in unfamiliar streets and have passed through more than a few seedy neighborhoods.
I decided I will not carry a handgun. I would certainly rather be killed than to kill someone.
More frightening is the possibility -- probability? -- that someone I love will be murdered. Several years ago another friar died of natural, though unexpected, causes; and initial rumors suggested he'd been killed. I remember the feelings of astonished anger; it seemed inconceivable that a human being -- even a stranger -- could do such a thing to a man I loved.
In today's gospel Jesus urges two things: "Be prepared" and "Do not be afraid."
No one can say where the next terror attack might occur or who might be the victim, but we can be certain that shock and fear are no excuse for a stupid or immoral response. Constant, daily prayer that begins with the acceptance of one's vulnerability opens us to the immediate grace of God. Thus prepared, we know how to respond.